Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Young Lions

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Imagine putting a Jazz recording session together with a band featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Frank Strozier on alto sax, Bobby Timmons on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and either Louis Hayes or Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums with Shorter penning four of the five tracks on the date and Morgan the other one - all for union scale and not a penny more!?

That’s exactly what happened on April 25, 1960 when a sextet of these fine, but at the time, still largely unknown young, Jazz musicians convened at Bell Sound Studios in New York City and put down the five tracks that make up VeeJay Records’ The Young Lions [LP/SR-3013; VeeJay CD-001].

The legendary alto saxophonist, bandleader and producer, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was widely loved and appreciated in Jazz circles not only because of his brilliant playing, but also because he actually talked to his audience at a time when many Jazz performers were becoming too artistic to be bothered.

Cannonball explained things; he expanded the audience’s appreciation of what they were about to hear by describing what was going on in the music.

He was also instructive in other ways such as picking up a pen and writing a discourse about what he found disturbing about certain trends in American popular music about 1960 in general and Jazz in particular.

These took the form of the following insert notes to The Young Lions [VeeJay LP/SR-3013; VeeJay CD-001].

Had he lived to see it [he died in 1975], I wonder what Cannonball would have made of the amateur and mediocre nature of much today’s popular music.

“We are living in the era of the glorification of mediocrity. These are the times when teenagers may become wealthy by writing and performing mediocre songs. When a scarcely literate hillbilly with dubious talent may become a star with a million dollar income, or when an "All American Boy" type can spin records to which teenagers dance and become a major television personality. Many of us believe that such situations exist because we have allowed ourselves to conform to mass thinking and direction.

The great novel by Irwin Shaw, "The Young Lions," delivers several messages; among them, the parallel of conformity emanating from separate sources. One young man is a zealot in a community of conformist patriots who blindly follow a man bent upon righting a situation that is wrong only in his ego-maniacal mind. The other young man is an unenthusiastic patriot in military service, who adheres to the "Great American Ideal," which is itself conformity.

Modern jazz today is standing on the threshold of destruction by those who would do it good. The lines are drawn and clearly marked. The traditionalists are those who unofficially feel that music introduced to us by Parker, Gillespie and Monk has not been fully developed. The avant-garde [Cannonball is referring to Third Stream movement - an amalgamation of Jazz and Classical music - that was current in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s]  are those others who subscribe to the "something new" philosophy. The avant-garde feel that music is reactionary unless something "different" is either suggested or produced stylistically. Fortunately jazz making is highly personalized and true genius will not conform to direction. "The Young Lions" who made the music in this album have varied musical philosophies and sundry jazz backgrounds.

The gifted young trumpeter, Lee Morgan, has been penalized with "too much, too soon." He received international acclaim after breaking into big league jazz as an eighteen year old prodigy. However, by the time he reached twenty, he was already being dismissed by some as just another Clifford Brown imitator. Most of this criticism is invalid, for he is one of the most easily recognized trumpet stylists. Lee has taken pains to develop his obvious stylistic identification marks. His favourite trumpeters include the aforementioned Clifford Brown, Dizzy Gillespie (The Champion), Miles Davis (A Great Mind) and Fats Navarro. Morgan says, "I do not consciously emulate anyone." He is a fine performer in the great Philadelphia tradition.

Frank Strozier is a Memphis lad and a contemporary of George Coleman and Booker Little. He was taught in high school at one time by Andy Goodrich. Goodrich is a sort of legendary alto player and teacher who was a member of the famed Tennessee State Collegians (which at one time or another numbered among its members, Jimmy Cleveland, Phineas Newborn, Louis Smith and Paul Quinichette). Frank has an original style which is very deliberate and, yet, sometimes quixotic. He is shy and taciturn, but not introverted. John Coltrane says, "he has very big ears." Frank does most of the writing for the "MJT + 3," the group with which he came to national prominence.

Bob Cranshaw is also a member of the "MJT + 3." He studied string bass in the school orchestra at Evanston Township High School (his home town). Cranshaw is already recognized by many as one of the finest young rhythm bass players around. He has a rock-hard, but flexible beat; and is a modified "Ray Brown to Sam Jones" type. His favourites include Ray and Sam along with Paul Chambers, Israel Crosby, and Oscar Pettiford.

Pianist Bobby Timmons shares with Lee Morgan the veteran status in this group. He has worked with Kenny Dorham's Jazz Prophets, the Chet Baker Quintet, the Donald Byrd-Pepper Adams group, the Maynard Ferguson Band, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, and is currently a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Bobby plays in today's popular accepted groove. He is a funky hard swinger, and on up tempos, his right hand suggests the Bud Powell style. Timmons has become an important composer ("'Dis Here" and "Moanin"') as well as player.

Wayne Shorter is the surprise of the year. Since returning from military service his work has been outstanding as both tenor saxophonist and composer. Shorter is a true non-conformist player who is completely independent stylistically. His compositions have caused considerable comment regarding their stark realism and freshness. He views with admiration the work of Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and fellow Newark, New Jerseyite, Hank Mobley.

Two years ago I asked the great "Philly" Joe Jones to name some of the young men whom he felt were potential giant drummers. Joe unhesitatingly named Louis Hayes, then drummer with the Horace Silver Quintet; Donald "Duck" Bailey, drummer with Jimmy Smith's organ trio, and Albert "Tootie" Heath, drummer with the J.J.Johnson sextet. Two of these young men have been utilized as participants of this "Young Lions" set. Louis Hayes, a Detroiter, has developed an enviable reputation. He plays a relaxed loose swinging style reminiscent of Kenny Clarke on medium and slow tempos, but is like a lion and more toward Max, "Philly" Joe, or Blakey on fast tempos. Hayes is also a fine soloist and has a popular following. (He is currently a member of the "Cannonball Adderley Quintet.")

Sharing the drum role with Louis is Albert Heath. Heath is the youngest member of one of the leading families in jazz. His brothers, saxophonist Jimmy and MJQ bassist Percy, have been established major league jazz musicians for some time. Al, who is a fine soloist, plays a style that is largely original but with overtones of "Philly" Joe and Max. He is a Philadelphian and has come to the attention of Vee Jay through his fine work on their first jazz album, "The Swingin'est."

Modern jazz obviously cannot and will not stand still. Modern jazz traditionalists must realize that the music of Bird is only a logical stepwise development of that which had gone before. Conversely, the avant-garde cannot expect basic stylistic changes to develop among mature players through artificial stimuli; for the hysterical cry for change tends to give sanctuary to charlatans.”


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